Tag Archives: Chester

Home town tilt shift

Home town tilt shift

OK. I know. It’s been a long time. Far too long in fact. But after posting every day for 7 months the freedom of giving up overtook me and I went in the opposite direction. I swore that that this blog was not going to die and the fact that I am writing this at is means that this may well be true, although I am still not convinced.

I know at least one person who has missed this blog (she knows who she is) and who keeps asking when I am going to post again so here I go. One post for the whole of September is pretty shameful but I have not been idling. Honest. I have been adding more and more photos to my Society6 page and it is beginning to bear fruit in terms of recognition, feedback and, yes, sales; which sort of explains why the blog has been quiet of late… It’s a case of priority and being able to fund the photography. So whilst I have been attempting to live up to the tag ‘artist’ I have also done some commercial portraits that have been well received and left me thinking that maybe I would like to do more. I have now had enquiries about four (!) weddings – all next year – as well. There are good reasons why the blog has been through this dormant period.

It’s now pretty clear to me that word of mouth is a very powerful thing, especially from friends. And it also seems that after 2 or 3 years of plugging away I am starting to see a little reward. Since this blog was about logging progress maybe it has run its course but not quite yet. Are you still an amateur if people have bought your photos? Does amateur solely refer to professional status or is it ability to use a camera? These are questions I need to find an answer to.

However, this blog has always been less about photography and more about me pouring my thoughts out onto the page (you may have noticed). The writing has been just as therapeutic as the photography if truth be told and its something that I enjoy. So, moving forward, it may just become a depository for random news, the occasional rant, the odd blatant plug before being integrated into a wider on-line presence. Grand designs, etc…

And why today? Well for a long time now I have been attempting to create some tilt shift photography. A technique by which you make cars, people, etc look like toys. When done well it can look stunning. I have been attempting and failing for a long time and this picture is the first time I have got remotely close. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a start and signals that I may at last have got the hang of it.


Words and pictures

Chester noir

Mark is very certain about his tastes in music, fiction and drama [I think this means I’m an opinionated git but I’m going to go with it – Mark] and it’s surprising this certainty doesn’t carry over to his photography. Because it should.

The wobbles of confidence he shares so readily with readers of this blog are surprising because his images are striking, confident and, most of all eloquent. He worries about supplying the words and sometimes forgets that he doesn’t need to because the pictures are often telling the story very well.

In May I stood as the Labour Party* candidate in the local Council elections here in Chester. The ward, which we successfully took from the Conservative Party covers the city centre. It’s a beautiful and historic ward but it does nevertheless have parts suffering from dereliction and neglect.

Mark, and his wife Helen, were really supportive during the campaign and in true Kelvin MacKenzie style, Mark can claim that it was him “what won it” as he was generous enough to allow me to use his images of the City centre that highlighted dramatically places where things were not so pretty in the garden, places off the beaten track that needed attention.

I used Mark’s striking images to make effective campaigning material. Given that I have a slim majority, every vote really did count and I’m sure that the resonance of Mark’s pictures helped.

So now I have the honour to serve as the Labour Councillor for Chester City ward and as I go about meeting residents, traders and officials, I have the privilege to see nooks and crannies that many people wouldn’t see in the normal run of things.

This week, on a lovely sunny day, I was on the roof of St Peter’s Church at the Cross looking down Bridge Street, over the river and beyond to Handbridge. And I found myself, as I often do, thinking: “Mark would love it up here”.

I think Mark’s got talent and his pictures are an inspiration. He should stop worrying and carry on doing what he does best. Telling stories.

Samantha Dixon

*Other political parties are available 🙂

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Midsummer watch

Midsummer watch

Someone told me at work today that after tomorrow it starts to go dark again; in other words we are in the middle of summer; hard to believe as I watch the rain streaming down the windows and contemplate packing for Glastonbury. This picture was taken at the Midsummer watch parade in Chester on Saturday and as it makes me laugh I thought it might have the same effect on you.

The blog posts this week will be sparse and automated as I am heading to Somerset on Wednesday morning. Things are not looking good… Although the Friday-Sunday of the festival itself is forecast to be dry, it’s raining there now and will be tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday if the forecasts are to be believed – photographs on Twitter already show the developing mudflats. Fingers crossed that it will dry out quickly before 150,000 people arrive… Trying not to get too downhearted but I am afraid the wellies are out of the shed and packed. I may have to drink through it.

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As evidenced by my bug circus post yesterday this was the weekend where the unusual came to the streets of my home city of Chester. As I have blogged before, the city currently stands at something of a crossroads arts-wise; the only city centre cinema is closed, the theatre has been decommissioned and its seats ripped out, there is no music venue to speak of (with apologies to the one or two venues that are still bringing live music to the city against the odds).

But things are looking up. Whilst we still have no theatre and debate rages as to whether the old Odeon cinema should be re-developed as an arts centre there are several organisations – Chester Festivals and Chester Performs – that are doing their darndest to ensure that the city doesn’t become a complete cultural wasteland. For the second year running, we have an open-air theatre in one of the city’s open spaces (Grosvenor Park) bringing Shakespeare (As You Like It) and original family theatre (Merlin) to the huddled masses.

We are curently in the midst of Chestival, which ties in with the annual midsummer watch parade and has seen open-air cinema in the Roman amphitheatre, a shortened mystery play ‘The Creation’ in the same space and, this weekend, somewhat incongruously vaudeville, cabaret, and burlesque performed on the city streets and inside the town hall.

Breathing fireWe spent a wonderful day yesterday as a family attending all the events and were left stunned and amazed by the vaudeville performers, who brought a real sense of the exotic to the streets of my city. Such was the dedication of the performers it was like being transported to another place and time and it made me bitterly regret that we had not booked tickets for the sold-out seated performance in the Town Hall in the evening. I think it’s genuinely well known that vaudeville and cabaret is making a comeback. Everything has its place and time and things come full circle and whilst our streets are always full of jugglers and unicyclists, especially in the summer, what they lack is the sparkle, the razzle dazzle, the sheer class that these performers had in spades. I hope this comes over in the photographs that illustrate today’s blog and I hope that I have done them justice.

I don’t often get the chance to do portraits or people pictures, and I admit I am far more comfortable with landscapes but the great thing about public events is that it gives me the chance to practice taking these sorts of shot. The blog today is just a small selection of what I shot and I’ll probably blog some of the rest of the festival for the next couple of days before heading off to Glastonbury.

ContortionAs well as the fire lady above the vaudeville performers included a man who could dislocate his shoulders to comic effect (although he made my son feel sick), a man who could remove a rose from his extremely brave assistant’s teeth using a whip, a dancing monkey (not a real one before anyone gets irate) and a quite spectacular contortionist. This was all held together by a megaphone-wielding ‘swami’ in elaborate headgear who kept the audience enthralled and on tenterhooks for the next act.

I am not quite sure how we ended up with this unusual entertainment but I truly hope that it worked and was profitable and will see them back next year as I would love to the see the evening show with its promise of darker, more exotic material.

I’ve taken hundreds of photos, of which these are just a snapshot, of our lovely free day out. Hats off to the organisers

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Gerald seems an unlikely name for a boat. I mean, why would you call your boat Gerald? It’s more suited to an elderly gentleman. Unless this boat was named after an elderly gentleman. Anyway, this is a picture of a boat called Gerald, as indicated by the painted metal buckets (?) perched on its roof. Most narrow boats seem to have these but I have no idea what they are used for. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? I always thought that they might be fire buckets but I have seen them with flowers in. Or are they just to carry water? I took this picture very early in the morning and I think you can tell. The muted light from the sun rising in the distance gives the colours a bit of a boost – they wouldn’t look the same in bright sunlight. So, another canal picture… maybe I am turning into a waterways photographer if such a thing exists? Too many questions in this blog for my liking already so I think I’ll stop there. Next challenge is to avoid pictures of canals, particularly in black and white, unless that is I decide not to…

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Competition fail

Albion Inn

I have recently entered some photographs for a competition (fingers crossed) and was with most photo competitions there were various categories under which you could enter. All of my entries were accepted bar this one. The category was ‘Local Britain’. What better way to illustrate this I thought that with a traditional British ‘local’ (for overseas readers, vernacular for a public house). Even better that said local is called The Albion Inn. But no. The image was rejected. Not because it’s a bad picture (for the record I think its pretty good) and not for the fact that it did not meet the stringent image criteria – it is the right orientation, size and format. It was rejected because it was deemed to be ‘advertising’. Now with all the will in the world I’m not sure how this can be the case. There are no logos, no brewery signs, nothing promoting anything at all. It’s just a typical British corner pub. So in other words my picture is deemed to advertise a pub rather than being a picture of a pub. I find this quite amusing and I would be intrigued to know how many other images are falling foul of this rule. I obviously have to consider these things more carefully Winking smile

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Ship's cat bw

OK, OK I admit it. Too much on tonight and when you are attempting to blog every day for a year then sometimes corners must be cut. This is a black and white version of the picture from earlier in the week because YOU the reader demanded; well at least two people said that they would like to see it in monochrome. Is it better? I’m not sure. It’s certainly more dramatic but I don’t think it has the colour version’s sense of early morning optimism. It is now almost a picture about working rather than pleasure. I like both versions but it does goes to show the difference feeling that a black and white picture can convey compared with colour. Although I prefer the colour version it’s probably this one that I will upload to my Society6 store. Experience so far shows me that everyone would rather have a black and white image on their wall than colour. Is it because it’s more dramatic or is it a perception of being more ‘arty’? I’ll leave that for you to ponder as my dinner’s ready…

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Ship’s cat

Ship's cat

Back out into the outdoors for today’s picture and I must admit to really liking this one, despite its simplicity. It’s a very English picture – witness the overalls and the cloth cap – and one that I think captures life on the canals. This was taken very early morning as the boats were leaving the marina. I took it from the footbridge that crosses the canal, under which the swan from previous blogs was nesting. When I took it I was looking for some depth of field between the two boats, which I think I have got; however, it was only when I looked at the picture full screen that I realised the focus should be elsewhere. The undoubted star of this image is the cat perched in the doorway, which I didn’t even know was there when I took the picture. Another happy accident.

I find this picture very calming and really quite romantic. I’d like to know where the man and his cat are off to next; it seems like a very restful way to spend your days. The smoke adds to the effect. It seems to me that this picture is all about the little details, the ripples on the water, the oily rag in the man’s hand, the flat cap and that cat. Lovely

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On the town

Chester Town hall

Going out tonight (ooh hark at me) but just time to get a short blog post in and fulfil my obligations :-). So as I am out on the town here is the town hall of my home city. Another masterpiece of Victorian civic pride, like a smaller version of the town hall in Manchester. I had to get up very early in the morning to take this; hence the lack of people. The statue in the foreground is a source of great local debate; it is meant to symbolise the community of this walled city but the more unhinged of Chester’s citizens have labelled it disgusting and ‘lewd’. They obviously have far more warped – but not fertile, DEFINITELY not fertile – imaginations than I do.

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Urban landscape

Ginnel, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

The good news is that the PC is back and fixed but I am less than motivated in terms of setting everything back up and then starting to process some new photos. So…. This is another old photo and I promise to get back on he ball tomorrow. Besides I like this picture as I think it proves how black and white photography can add detail and bite to a pretty everyday scene, such as this alleyway near my house. The lines to the horizon are pretty sharp; its definitely an image that leads you in. I also like the crumbling brickwork to the sides. The trick to this photo was lying on the floor to take it. I have said it before and no doubt will again but sometimes the best angles are to be found by crouching low or shooting down from on high; certainly I try and avoid eye level where I can.

This week without the computer has given me an idea of how I will be able to blog when on holiday to keep the postaday2011 flag flying. Also, posting direct from Flickr is very quick, pain free and surprisingly simple – a godsend when you are typing on a phone touchscreen.